Viva Botero

You know those snobs…those bastards…who like to think of food as bordering on art? I’m one of them. Go ahead and laugh/curse/snort/whatever. I’ll wait.

Okay. Hope you got that out of your system. Since I find that food and wine can be a means for expression as much as dance, music, paintings and the like (it is called the culinary arts, after all), I’m especially a sucker for a restaurant whose concept fuses art and fine cuisine. Which is why I was thrilled to end up at Botero inside the Encore in Las Vegas.  

Side note: I find very little to be liked about Vegas, but there are so many great restaurants in a concentrated space, the thought of it triggers a mouthgasm for me.

Anyway, Botero is named for the Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, who is famous for his paintings of exaggerated (read: fat) figures. Original works hang throughout the restaurant. And, with the menu from Chef Mark LoRusso, fat is how you will feel upon exiting this restaurant.

My Botero experience began at the bar with a much-needed Manhattan after a long day. I should mention, I was in Las Vegas for work, not play. So, this drink was purely for sanity. Upon being seated, having been the one who made the reservation, I was presented with the wine list….er…wine binder. The list was an oenophile’s playground. All the stars are there. Everything from Napa favorites like Screaming Eagle to French Grand Crus that I’ll never be able to afford like Petrus, Haut-Brion and Rothschild. As I wisfully perused the list, I opted for two distinctly different cabernet sauvignons for the table. One from Pride Mountain Vineyards. The other from D.R. Stephens. We went with the Pride first, as it was a bit lighter. The Stephens was saved to accompany the steaks that would come later in the meal.

Caprese

To start off  the meal, I went for the heirloom tomato caprese salad. A good caprese salad can turn any day around. The tomatoes were beautifully unfussy – simply dressed with oil, salt and pepper and a slight drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Accompanied by pillowy buffalo mozzerella, fresh basil and microgreens, it was a light and fresh way to lead into the main course.

It is at this juncture that I should mention I could have made an entire meal out of the side items offered at Botero. They got my attention with jalapeno creamed corn. Made me drool at the thought of goat cheese polenta. And won me with the truffle mac n cheese. Had I not been with work associates – some of whom I was seeing face-to-face for the first time – I may have just buried myself in the mac n cheese and eaten my way out. But alas, I had to behave like a proper adult.

As it relates to steak, I’m a very simple, predictable girl. Petite filet for me. It is generally about the maximum amount of cow I can consume in one sitting and the cut is just so tender. And, when in the hands of a pro, it genuinely is a little slice of heaven.

Oh the carnage!

Botero’s petite filet is 8 oz. of greatness. Wonderfully crisp on the outside and beautifully pink – when ordered medium – on the inside.  All of Botero’s steaks can be ordered one of three ways – traditional, pepper or chimichurri. I’m a sucker for a good chimichurri sauce, so I went for it.

When the ingredients are this high-quality, very little additional accoutrement is needed. Props to Botero for high standards. As a diner, you’ll appreciate it. And you should, because you’re paying for it. The petite filet all by itself costs $50. But, it’s Vegas, right?

In the photo – note the bit of truffle mac n cheese that the upper right of the plate. I kept myself to 2 helpings of that size. Nothing short of a miracle.

You might be thinking to yourself, that must be the end of the meal, right? Who could keep eating after all of that? Answer: me.

Enter the dessert menu. I was craving something chocolate to go with the remaining bit of D.R. Stephens cabernet gracing my glass. The wine was velvety smooth, with nice tannins and balanced fruit. Who wouldn’t want some chocolate to go with it? I opted for the milk chocolate bon bon lollipops. It was great for sharing with my companions, not super heavy like a chocolate cake or torte would be, and featured vanilla bean ice cream as one of its main ingredients. Alas, no photo, as the group dug in pretty quickly and the camera phone got caught in the crossfire.

I thoroughly enjoyed this restaurant. Respectful treatment for great ingredients is always a quick way to my heart – via my stomach, of course. I likely couldn’t afford to eat at Botero on my own dime unless I saved up for quite some time (options for wine are few under $200), but it is certainly a worthwhile spend if you’re in Vegas and looking for a special dining experience. Of course, at a restaurant of this caliber, the service was quite good as well. So, next time you find yourself winning in Vegas, take that first $500 of your winnings, set it aside, and enjoy a night at Botero. I assure you it will be far more enjoyable than watching the dealer take your money, because the house usually wins, no?

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